Wood Unhinged

Dear Readers,

For years, this blog has used the Five Elements model from Chinese medicine to discuss the five basic elemental personalities: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. We’ve covered issues like the strengths and weaknesses of each elemental personality, as well as the important understanding of how they relate to each other. At times, we’ve even dipped into how they relate to themselves. However, one issue we have never covered is what happens to an elemental personality when some form of mental illness is present. Recent events suggest this might be a reasonable time to cover this topic, especially as it relates to the primary Wood personality.

Wood people focus on the future and are excellent planners. Their greatest strength is that they can envision their goals and plot exactly what it takes to accomplish them. They firmly believe that if they try hard enough, they can manifest anything. Powerful and decisive, the primary Wood personality counts on their ability to get things done in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and will use their abundant energy to remove obstacles that block the way. It is the nature of their personality to be strong, direct, and assertive (hopefully in a kind way). 

If action and accomplishment are the greatest strengths of Wood people, their greatest weakness is a potentially dysfunctional – and often explosive – response to lack of movement toward accomplishing what they want. When things aren’t happening fast enough, or at all, Wood personalities have nowhere to focus their formidable energy. They’ll push and exhaust themselves in the name of the goal and ultimately lose their ability to be flexible and adaptable. In the process they can become impatient, angry, and often quite mean. However, since self-preservation (and saving face) is very important for a Wood person, they are usually able to pull themselves back from the point of no return, dust themselves off, and try again (often with a different approach).

That said, a mentally unstable Wood personality will frequently become so obsessed with what matters to them (things like success, status, being important, and winning) that they lose the ability to self-moderate their behavior. Whatever their primary goal is at the moment takes on an almost mythic “life or death” urgency such that they will stop at very little to get what they want. The concept that the ends can justify the means is a Wood energy idea, and an unbalanced Wood will see nothing wrong in doing whatever they believe needs to be done to accomplish their goal. 

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She’s Dreading the Winter Solstice

Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and that means the start of winter. I hate it! The dark and cold always make me very unhappy. My sister (a writer) loves December, the darker and colder, the better for her. Personally, I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elemental personalities? I don’t even know which personality I am, I just know that I hate winter. Can you help me understand why? Signed: Hates the Cold and Dark 

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Dear Hates the Cold and Dark: Winter Solstice does indeed herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest months here. But they are not the darkest months. The Winter Solstice represents a pause in the year-long journey from longest day to longest night, then back again. And while it’s true that December 21, the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year and the longest night, it’s also a turning point. Beginning the very next day, the nights shorten, and the days lengthen. So, if you hate the dark, the Winter Solstice is actually good news for you because beginning December 22, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that’s around for several more months.

To answer your question, how we respond to a time of year absolutely can have to do with our elemental personality, especially since (as was mentioned in last week’s post), each elemental personality has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that each personality would resonate with their own season – and that can be true – but it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced in their personality, they may not do well with their own season and may need what another season has to offer. 

Bottom line, each elemental personality will respond to winter in predictable ways depending on how balanced they are within their own elemental personality and how that personality relates to Water in the Five Elements model. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself in one of these elemental personality descriptions.

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Five Elements and Elections: Fear, Hate, and Healing

Dear Readers: Four years ago, I posted a blog following what seemed to be a particularly contentious and divisive election in 2016 America. Sadly, it appears that little has changed in America over the past four years and the election held here earlier this week is on its way to becoming even more divisive than the previous one. 

In my 2016 post, I explored the role the Five Elements played in that election with the hope that a greater understanding of the dynamics at play would help heal the country. That remains the impetus and hope behind re-sharing that (annotated) 2016 post today. Blessings to all, Vicki

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From 2016:

Dear Readers,

We held a presidential election in America earlier this week and the results left some people astounded and shocked. It was perceived by many as a contest between love and hate, acceptance and fear, inclusivity and exclusion. How we each processed these apparent polarities depended a great deal on which candidate we supported. In the end, the country was split almost exactly down the middle: the electoral vote went to one candidate and the popular vote to the other. In America, the electoral vote decides the election.

It’s not my intent here to discuss who should have won, or who did win. Rather, I’d like to explore the role the Five Elements played in this election in hopes that this understanding will help us begin to heal. America is dangerously divided right now and must come together to move forward. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his June 16, 1858 speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Hopefully, a little understand will help the healing.

A dominant theme in this election was fear. Fear of people not like us, fear of what either candidate might do if elected, fear of lost rights, fear of staying stuck, fear of elitism, fear of exclusion; you name it, we feared it. Even those aspects of the campaign that emphasized working together carried an underlying fear of what would happen if we just couldn’t work together. Truly, this was an election fraught with fear.

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Current Events Stress a Relationship

Dear Vicki: I’m having an issue with my husband of three years and hope you can help. Jax is a wise and kind guy who’s really into things being done the “right” way. When he’s stressed, he can get pretty dismissive, but other than that we usually get along really well. Recently, though, we had a significant argument about the upcoming elections. I can’t believe what’s happening in our country and am terribly concerned. Jax just shrugs and tells me not to worry. But so many people are hurting in so many ways, how can I not worry? And how can he be so seemingly indifferent about something so important? Does he even have a heart? What can I do to convince him that he needs to care more? Signed: Worried Wife 

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Dear Worried Wife: Yours is not the first letter I’ve received about current events here in the U.S. This is not a blog about politics, but fortunately for your situation, I think the issue is less about politics and more about understanding each other. I can’t help you with specific election issues, but I can help you understand some of what’s going on between you and Jax. Much of it has to do with the interaction between your elemental personalities, so let’s start there.

Based on the way you describe Jax, I think it’s safe to say he is a primary Metal elemental personality. Doing things the “right” way, an ability to stay detached, and becoming dismissive when stressed are all pretty characteristic of the Metal personality. And you are clearly a primary Earth personality. Caring what happens to people and a tendency to worry are two very dominant characteristics of Earth people. So, what does that mean for your relationship? To answer that, we will look at our ever-popular Five Elements model.

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Neighbors Use Her Pool Without Permission

Dear Vicki: It’s a hot summer where we live and I’m having trouble with a neighbor who keeps using our outdoor pool without being invited. I know outdoor socializing is less of an issue these days (although I still worry myself sick about our family getting Covid), but when they come over, I can’t bring myself to tell them to go home. The guilt would kill me. However, other than the social distancing thing, it’s also a problem because her five children are poorly behaved, to say the least. They splash water all over, run around the pool when we’ve specifically told them to walk, and generally don’t follow the rules, which really disturbs me. Honestly, my family just doesn’t like them. I’m so sorry to be unkind, but we are already stressed and having rude neighbors here ruins things for my family. I want to do the right thing, but also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or create a difficult relationship with the people next door. Can you help? Signed: Feeling Guilty and Miffed

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Dear Guilty and Miffed: First, let me assure you that you are not being unkind. Frankly, you sound pretty practical to me. As far as I know, creating family “bubbles” for socialization is still the best way to stay safe and well during this pandemic. Most people who take this approach usually think long and hard before they include others in their bubbles. And pandemic issues aside, if a neighbor is ruining things for your family, they shouldn’t be at your house. So, let’s look at what might be going on between you and your neighbor, and from there I think we can come up with ways to address your situation.

Based on your letter, I think it’s safe to say that you are a primary Earth personality (worrying yourself sick is very Earthy, as is feeling guilty). However, your dislike of the neighbors not following the rules strongly suggest that you have a secondary Metal personality. Metal people deeply believe that rules are meant to be followed. They also have a lot of structure (they can be the most structured of the elemental personalities), so can easily land in a place of “what’s right is right, and what isn’t right is just wrong.”

Your neighbor, on the other hand, seems to me to be a primary Wood personality. It takes a lot of hutzpah to continually invite yourself and your children over to use someone else’s pool – especially during a pandemic – unless a standing invitation has been issued (which it doesn’t sound like you’ve done). The elemental personality that has that kind of “pushy” energy is Wood. This means that you, as a primary Earth personality are trying to deal with a Wood personality. And it’s no surprise you’re losing.

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